Dragonus, the Skywrath Mage has been through a turbulent couple of years in DotA 2. Though a favored support pick in TI4, he as since fallen out of favor due to some glaring weaknesses. However, the sweeping changes in 7.07 brought some needed buffs to the hero. These buffs increase his viability in a multitude of ways, and I believe he’ll see increased play in pubs and tournaments because of them.
Where can I even begin here. For starters, though a powerful nuker, all of his damage is magic based. As soon as teams buy BKB, most of his potential effectively disappears. Once the game hit this point, there wasn’t a whole lot a Skywrath Mage could do. His skill set is centered around picking off heroes, and he does this very well in the early game. Unfortunately this leaves him incapable of pushing lanes or taking objectives. The hero’s inflexible nature made him unappealing to teams who might need to pivot strategies mid match.
Until recently, Skywrath also had trouble getting solo pick offs without outside help. For a hero who was supposed to excel at this, this was a major problem. While concussive shot slowed enemies in order to set up his Mystic Flare ultimate, it was not often enough to keep the enemy within the spell’s effective radius on it’s own. In order to ensure full damage, an ally would need to open the engagement with a stun for Skywrath to achieve his full potential.
It’s all a thing of the past
IceFrog has graced the Skywrath Mage with a few choice buffs in the last few patches. These buffs both increase his kill potential and his late game options, effectively addressing both of his previous weaknesses.
We’ll start with the buff before 7.07, with the buff to Rod of Atos. Atos was already a fantastic item on Skywrath thanks to the slow stacking with Concussive Shot. While the stacking slow was akin to a full stun, there was still some wiggle room that allowed enemies to escape the Mystic Flare radius. In patch 7.00, Atos’ Cripple ability changed from a four second slow to a two second root. This change makes Skywrath mage a mid-game ganking fiend. Unless an enemy has an escape mechanism or a ton of health, they will find themselves dead if they get caught by this combo.
A talented bird-man
With the old news out of the way lets move forward to the present. Skywrath received and entirely new series of talents. A couple of these are more noteworthy than others. For starters, the Ancient Seal cooldown talent changed from a level 25 talent to a level 15 talent. Not only that, but the cooldown reduction was increased from four seconds to six seconds. With the ability at level four, Ancient Seal becomes a six second targeted silence with an eight second cooldown. This amount of uptime for a disable is phenomenal, especially as early in the game as level 15. This dramatically improves Skywrath’s ability to participate in fights early by potentially silencing two heroes per fight.
More important is probably the talent sitting on the other side of the level 15 branch: +1 Arcane Bolt. What used to be an Aghanim’s Scepter upgrade in the late game is available for free at level 15. Better yet, the talent stacks with Aghanims, meaning Skywrath can cast 3 Arcane Bolt mini-nukes for just 70 mana. The ability to cast two arcane bolts give’s Skywrath an ability to push lanes that he didn’t have before. Of course other heroes still clear waves better, but now Skywrath has a way to help his team once the BKBs roll out. Naturally, they also drastically increase his damage in team fights.
A pub pick up
Skywrath is a versatile nuker that can disable key carries in team fights and melt supports with his early game pick off potential. While I believe he will remain a situational pick for professional DotA, he can really be an all-star in pub matches. Arcane Seal is a massive disruption for teams with poor communication, and Arcane Bolt remains a relevant low cost nuke late in the game thanks to his new talents. Most importantly though, hitting the Rod of Atos/Mystic Flare combo never gets old. In a matchmaking world where people seem hesitant to pick supports, it is hard to go wrong with a Skywrath Mage pick.
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